With his team about to begin a playoff defense of its championship, Heat president Pat Riley said Friday he wants to keep his team together longterm, even with the luxury tax becoming far more onerous in 2014-15, but that the decision ultimately would be made by owner Micky Arison and he did not want to speculate what Arison would do.
After the new labor agreement was signed 17 months ago, Arison said that even with tax penalties increasing, the Heat can keep its three stars together should LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decide to remain with the team when they can exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts in the summer of 2014.
“It’s do-able,” Riley said. “When you have an opportunity to build a team like this -- if you take a look at the four or five teams that endured over 8, 9 or 10 years, they did it with the players. So it would be a shame if you couldn’t do that. I would like to see them all end their careers here and hang their numbers and become godfathers to each other’s children and have one big happy barbecue in the backyard somewhere. I'd love to see that, but I don't know if that's reality in today's game.”
Keeping the three stars together remains the strong internal sentiment, according to Riley and other members of the organization. But Riley stopped short of saying that would definitely be the approach.
“I am going to defer that question to Micky, because it’s going to be a big decision,” he said. “What we sold these guys on when they came here was winning championships and we're going to do whatever we can to maintain the talent we have to win championships and contend for championships.
"How that changes over the next couple years, and what we do next summer, will determine how he handles that in the future. It’s going to take some thought. We don't agree with all aspects of the collective bargaining agreement."
Riley talked about the Los Angeles Dodgers' enormous TV deal and said "it's going to take that kind of revenue," though a deal that big in a market that's not as big as Los Angeles isn't realistic.
"It’s a question of the economics of the game," Riley said. "We've already had some internal conversations about it. That will all be tackled after the season. But it is do-able.”
On needing to convince his stars to stay, Riley said: “I don’t believe we have to sell anybody on us anymore in 2014.”
If the Heat keeps the Big Three after next season, it likely would need to surround them with players mostly on minimum contracts to avoid a huge tax bill. A big tax bill likely would await regardless in 2014-15, with Udonis Haslem under contract for $4.6 million and Joel Anthony for $3.8 million that year.
Arison hasn't discussed his longterm philosophy recently. But after the labor deal was signed, he said: “Obviously, I wanted to see a negotiation that led to something that we could have kept the team together. And it did. The fact they made it expensive, but we can keep them together.”
Riley addressed other issues in his first news conference since July:
### He said winning the championship last season “has freed up LeBron to take it to another level. The numbers show he’s more efficient, more confident.
"He just plays at a different level now. He’s a real leader. He manages the game at the end…. I’ve always said he’s a hybrid of all the great players that came before him. There’s a little part of his game he’s taken from everyone.... I think he's had a pretty good year. Let's see where he takes it.”
### Riley said he and James “don’t have heavy conversations. I’m not a hands-on guy anymore with him.”
### On Wade: “I laugh when people say he’s getting a little bit older and anything other than what he is – which is a great, great player. He had to give away something and he gave it away very unselfishly to help this whole team work.”
### He said Eric Spoelstra should be named Coach of the Year. “He will yell at me for talking about this, but don’t penalize him because he’s got a great team.”
### Riley said “whatever challenges this team will face in the playoffs, I guarantee they will be different than what they were last year. Our team has deep belief.”
### Last month, when Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said it was “embarrassing” that James was voicing displeasure about hard fouls, Riley said that Ainge should “shut the [expletive] up” and worry about his own team.
Asked about that Friday, Riley said: “Somebody on the outside weighing in, I don’t think that’s right. There are too many people in the league that weigh in on other peoples’ business.”
### On hard fouls, Riley said the Heat “interacts with the league office when we feel like it’s getting out of hand. LeBron has battled that for so long that he’ll deal with it. We have to try to protect him. If you hit him harder and harder, you’re making a huge mistake.”
### Riley said Spoelstra frequently texted him, imploring him to sign Chris Andersen before Miami did so in January. “If I got another text from him, I was going to put my hands around his neck," Riley said. "That’s a Spo addiction the past two years with me. Spo knows exactly what he needs. Chris is the perfect complement to how they want to play, the energy he brings.”
### He said he never discussed the 27-game winning streak with Spoelstra and “I was really disappointed when we got beat. I wanted them to break the record. It’s a once in lifetime phenomenon. They have would resurrected the ghosts of Wilt Chamberlain.”
###On Brandon Jennings predicting the Bucks would win this playoff series in six games: “We live in the present moment. What anybody says doesn’t mean anything.”
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